BILL Gates was “forced to quit the Microsoft board after an affair with a female staffer” and “asked employees out while he was married,” according to new reports.
Board members are said to have carried out an investigation into the billionaire’s romantic relationship with a Microsoft engineer in late 2019 after she claimed in a letter she had a sexual relationship with Gates for a number of years.
The relationship was deemed by the board to be “inappropriate,” people familiar with events told The Wall Street Journal.
It has also been claimed Gates “pursued” several women in his office after he wed now-estranged wife Melinda in 1994, according to a New York Times report.
The paper details two alleged instances where the tech mogul clumsily asked out women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In one instance, Bill Gates is said to have asked out a female Microsoft employee in 2006, following a presentation, two people familiar with the exchange told the Times.
A few years later, another woman, who worked for the Gates’ philanthropic foundation, told the Times that he had allegedly asked her out during a work trip to New York, saying “I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?”
Some of the employees who spoke to the Times said they didn’t see Gates’ behavior as predatory, adding he did not pressurize the women into submitting to his advances.
While the Microsoft probe was being carried out, some board members decided it would not be suitable for Gates to sit as a director at the company he had founded and led for decades.
Gates resigned before the board’s investigation was completed, a source told the paper.
“Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” a Microsoft spokesman said. “A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern.”
A spokeswoman for Gates said: “There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably.”
She added his “decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier.”
Gates resigned from the Microsoft board on March 13, 2020, just three months after he had been re-elected.
In a press release at the time he said he wanted to focus on his philanthropy and would continue to serve as a technical adviser to Chief Executive Satya Nadella.
On the same day he also vacated his board seat at Berkshire Hathaway Inc, run by Gates’ friend Warren Buffett.
Earlier this month Gates and his wife Melinda announced they were ending their marriage after 27 years.
A joint statement posted on Twitter said: “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
In a divorce petition, Melinda Gates said their marriage was “irretrievably broken.”
It was revealed last week Melinda had been consulting with lawyers at various firms since at least 2019 for a way to unwind the marriage.
No reason has been given for the split.
Gates’ involvement with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been speculated as the cause of the split, according to media reports.
A spokeswoman for Gates said in 2019 he had met with Epstein for philanthropic reasons but regretted doing so.
Microsoft said it would change its process for handling employee complaints of harassment and discrimination in April 2019.
At the time it also said it would provide additional training and boost the number of human resources staff who address complaints, among other changes.
The announcement came after women at Microsoft shared stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in an email chain within the company, the Microsoft spokesman confirmed.
Sources told the WSJ the Microsoft board became aware of the letter from the engineer in late 2019 which demanded changes to her job and also revealed details about her relationship with Gates.
Some board members also asked about Gates’ dealings with Epstein, according to one source.
Board members were told the relationship was solely focused on philanthropy, according to the source.
As the probe continued board members became increasingly concerned about Gates’ relationship with the engineer and thought it “inappropriate” a director was associated with the situation, especially in light of the #MeToo movement.